Disease: Aphasia

Aphasia is a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. It can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written.

Aphasia typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury. But it can also come on gradually from a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes progressive, permanent damage (degenerative). Where and how bad the brain damage is and what caused it determine the degree of disability.

Once the cause has been addressed, the main treatment for aphasia is speech and language therapy. The person with aphasia relearns and practices language skills and learns to use other ways to communicate. Family members often participate in the process, helping the person communicate.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Aphasia is a sign of some other condition, such as a stroke or a brain tumor.

A person with aphasia may:

  • Speak in short or incomplete sentences
  • Speak in sentences that don't make sense
  • Substitute one word for another or one sound for another
  • Speak unrecognizable words
  • Not understand other people's conversation
  • Write sentences that don't make sense

The severity and scope of the problems depend on the extent of damage and the area of the brain affected.

Types of aphasia

Your doctor may refer to aphasia as nonfluent, fluent or global:

  • Nonfluent aphasia. Damage to the language network near the left frontal area of the brain usually results in Broca aphasia, which is also called nonfluent aphasia. People with this disorder struggle to get words out, speak in very short sentences and omit words. A person might say "Want food" or "Walk park today." A listener can usually understand the meaning.

    People with Broca aphasia may understand what other people say better than they can speak. They're often aware of their difficulty communicating and may get frustrated. People with Broca aphasia may also have right-sided paralysis or weakness.

  • Fluent aphasia. People with this form of aphasia may speak easily and fluently in long, complex sentences that don't make sense or include unrecognizable, incorrect or unnecessary words. They usually don't understand spoken language well and often don't realize that others can't understand them. Also known as Wernicke aphasia, this type of aphasia is the result of damage to the language network in the middle left side of the brain.
  • Global aphasia. Global aphasia results from extensive damage to the brain's language networks. People with global aphasia have severe disabilities with expression and comprehension.

Nonfluent aphasia. Damage to the language network near the left frontal area of the brain usually results in Broca aphasia, which is also called nonfluent aphasia. People with this disorder struggle to get words out, speak in very short sentences and omit words. A person might say "Want food" or "Walk park today." A listener can usually understand the meaning.

People with Broca aphasia may understand what other people say better than they can speak. They're often aware of their difficulty communicating and may get frustrated. People with Broca aphasia may also have right-sided paralysis or weakness.

When to see a doctor

Because aphasia is often a sign of a serious problem, such as a stroke, seek emergency medical care if you suddenly develop:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Difficulty with word recall
  • Problems with reading or writing

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

The most common cause of aphasia is brain damage resulting from a stroke — the blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. Loss of blood to the brain leads to brain cell death or damage in areas that control language.

Brain damage caused by a severe head injury, a tumor, an infection or a degenerative process also can cause aphasia. In these cases, the aphasia usually occurs with other types of cognitive problems, such as memory problems or confusion.

Primary progressive aphasia is the term used for language difficulty that develops gradually. This is due to the gradual degeneration of brain cells located in the language networks. Sometimes this type of aphasia will progress to a more generalized dementia.

Sometimes temporary episodes of aphasia can occur. These can be due to migraines, seizures or a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA occurs when blood flow is temporarily blocked to an area of the brain. People who've had a TIA are at an increased risk of having a stroke in the near future.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Your doctor will likely give you a physical and a neurological exam, test your strength, feeling and reflexes, and listen to your heart and the vessels in your neck. He or she will likely request an imaging test, usually an MRI, to quickly identify what's causing the aphasia.

You'll also likely undergo tests and informal observations to assess your language skills, such as the ability to:

  • Name common objects
  • Engage in a conversation
  • Understand and use words correctly
  • Answer questions about something read or heard
  • Repeat words and sentences
  • Follow instructions
  • Answer yes-no questions and respond to open-ended questions about common subjects
  • Read and write

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Aphasia can create numerous quality-of-life problems because communication is so much a part of your life. Communication difficulty may affect your:

  • Job
  • Relationships
  • Day-to-day function

Language barriers may lead to embarrassment, depression and relationship problems.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

People with aphasia

If you have aphasia, the following tips may help you communicate with others:

  • Carry a card explaining that you have aphasia and what aphasia is.
  • Carry identification and information on how to contact significant others.
  • Carry a pencil and a small pad of paper with you at all times.
  • Use drawings, diagrams or photos as shortcuts.
  • Use gestures or point to objects.

Family and friends

Family members and friends can use the following tips when communicating with a person with aphasia:

  • Simplify your sentences and slow your pace.
  • Keep conversations one-on-one initially.
  • Allow the person time to talk.
  • Don't finish sentences or correct errors.
  • Reduce distracting noise in the environment.
  • Keep paper and pencils or pens available.
  • Write a key word or a short sentence to help explain something.
  • Help the person with aphasia create a book of words, pictures and photos to assist with conversations.
  • Use drawings or gestures when you aren't understood.
  • Involve the person with aphasia in conversations as much as possible.
  • Check for comprehension or summarize what you've discussed.

Support groups

Local chapters of such organizations as the National Aphasia Association, the American Stroke Association, the American Heart Association and some medical centers may offer support groups for people with aphasia and others affected by the disorder. These groups provide people with a sense of community, a place to air frustrations and learn coping strategies. Ask your doctor or speech-language pathologist if he or she knows of any local support groups.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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